ERNEST FREMONT SWIFT

Photo of Ernest Swift

Ernie was born in Tracy, Minnesota, on September 15, 1897. Ernie completed his high school education in Tracy where his father had been superintendent of schools for 25 years. Following graduation in 1917, he enlisted in the United States Army. Following his discharge in March 1919, he made his home in Hayward, Wisconsin, where he worked as a guide and dealt in real estate and wood products.

He was appointed as a Wisconsin conservation warden in June 1926, serving for the next two years as both warden and forest ranger in Forest County. In January 1928, he was placed in charge of the state's law enforcement program. In November 1935, he was promoted to deputy conservation director, with duties involving general administration of departmental programs in law enforcement, game management, and forest protection. He was also responsible for drafting all game management and forestry regulations passed by the Conservation Commission. In 1943, he was again promoted to the position of assistant director, and in November 1947 was named director. In this top administrative position, he was responsible for carrying out the policies established by the six-member Conservation Commission through the activity programs of ten major divisions. Under his leadership, Wisconsin was one of the first states to bring biologists into the conservation department, and the department made outstanding progress in forestry protection, fur-farm development, and other wildlife management programs.

Ernie was called to Washington, D.C., in 1954 to serve as assistant director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, with primary responsibilities over the wildlife activities of the Service. He resigned in 1955 to become executive director of the National Wildlife Federation. He resigned the position with the Federation in 1960, but continued to serve the Federation as conservation adviser and forestry liaison officer, as well as through his prolific pen.

Ernie exerted widespread influence on behalf of conservation through his essays, articles, editorials, and reports. He wrote regularly for National Wildlife magazine and Conservation News, two of the Federation's periodicals. He also was the author of A Conservation Saga, a hard-cover book published in 1968 by the Federation. The recipient of more than 20 awards and citations, he won the Haskell Noyes Conservation Warden Award in 1930, was honored with the Aldo Leopold Medal in 1959, and a Gold Medallion (the first ever given in the conservation field) from the Wisconsin Exposition Department in 1966.

He was president of the Midwest Association of Fish and Game Commissioners (1938-40 and 1949-50); second vice-president (1953-54); and chairman of the executive committee of the International Association of Game, Fish Conservation Commissioners (1953-54); vice-chairman, Natural Resources Committee of Wisconsin State Agencies (1951-54); chairman of forestry wildlife management committee, Society of American Foresters; and served on the committee of national-state relations, American Fisheries Society (1951-52). In 1961, he was elected to honorary membership by The Wildlife Society.

Ernie died of a heart attack at St. Joseph's Hospital in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, on July 24, 1968. In his memory, the National Wildlife Federation established, at the request of his widow, a special Ernest F. Swift Memorial, which is used in connection with the Federation’s long-established grants-in-aid program for graduate students studying wildlife conservation and natural resource management at accredited colleges and universities. Ernie had a son, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

Ernie was elected to the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1955.